(AP) – A homeless couple and their two young children, all dressed for bed, were found dead from suspected carbon monoxide poisoning in a parked van that had its windows covered with blankets and a shade to block out the light outside a Southern California strip mall, police said Friday.
Garden Grove Police Lt. Carl Whitney said a man, a woman, a boy and girl were found inside the white Honda van outside a CVS store late Thursday after a woman reported a foul odor coming from the vehicle.
“They were in pajamas and sleeping gear and it looks like they were all asleep inside the van,” Whitney said.
There were no signs of obvious trauma. The cause of death is still under investigation, but authorities suspect carbon monoxide poisoning based on their initial observations, Whitney said.
Both children appeared under the age of 2 and were still in diapers, he said.
On Friday the Orange County Coroner’s office identified the man as Phunyouphone Kanyavong, 41. Authorities said they believe they know the identities of the others but will not release their names until they are confirmed through DNA and fingerprints.
Garden Grove police detectives said they have spoken with relatives of Kanyavong who told them they believe the woman and the children are his girlfriend and the couple’s two children.
The case comes as Southern California grapples with a rise in homelessness amid soaring housing costs.
The family had been living in the van for some time and relatives were aware of the situation but the father did not seek help, Whitney said.
“What is tragic about this is we have our special resources teams that have connections to different resources,” Whitney said. “We don’t want these people living in their cars, and especially with small children. We want them to be off the streets for their own safety.”
The family in the van had been dead for at least two or three days by the time police arrived and the van was not running, Whitney said.
A clerk at the CVS store declined to comment early Friday. The strip mall — which also has a tea house, shoe store, pizza shop and mobile phone retailer — is located at a busy intersection in the city of 175,000 people about 30 miles southeast of Los Angeles.